The Language of the Internet

Growing up, we all learned variations of the same “correct” English. Our papers and essays have almost identical systems for capitalization, punctuation, grammar, etc. So why don’t we see this across the internet?


Let’s take a look at the language of tumbr. Text posts do sometimes have the “correct” structure, but more often then not, some translating is required. Most the time you’ll see something more like this:


This is not correct English if you hadn’t noticed. But this is closer to the norm on tumblr – why? As we have discussed in class, people have been trying to figure out ways to better incorporate visual cues to better convey their tone. Some people do this with emoji’s, but others do that by making deliberate “mistakes”. We can tell by the sudden capitalization that the author is incredibly animated and whatever they are about to say should make us feel something – anger, excitement, happiness. Then there are the spelling mistakes and the extra space that show us that they are so excited they no longer care about going back to edit; they have something to tell us and they are telling us right now. And finally let’s look at “pupper”. This simply means puppy, so why not use that instead? On tumblr – also reddit and others – pupper has emerged as a way to better express the shear puppyness of the puppy. Imagine a little dog with big paws and floppy ears who is never anything but excited, this is a pupper.

This is just a tiny bit of text, and we are able to tell this much about the author’s feelings and situation. What happens when we have images or videos?


This is just a gif of Shakira not hitting the button to turn her chair around on The Voice, but it shows so much more emotion than that. “When an amazing post has a spelling error in the totle.” Or in other words, I thought I was interested, but no. I was wrong. I was very wrong. I have seen many people use this gif to express their frustration because the thing they thought they liked/wanted turned out to be nothing like what they expected.

This is how we communicate with each other online. It is not just:

Person 1: Hello, how are you?
Person 2: I’m quite fine. Would you be interested in getting coffee soon?

We have real conversations full of emotion and life. Basic English isn’t enough for us anymore, and while most of the major shifts from plain text communication are localized to specific platforms, it won’t stay that way. Humphreys may have been talking about the spread of memes when she spoke about the spreadability on content, but it applies to our language as well.


How many times have you heard “I can’t even!” in the hallways? That started as a reaction to very specific situations on the internet, but now it is part of the vernacular. Our spoken language is evolving to match our changes to our written communication.


Humphreys, Ashlee. “Chapter 12: Cultural Representations and Practices.” Social Media: Enduring Principles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 215-233. Print.

Image of tumblr login page: screen grab of

gif of Shakira:

gif of Tyler Oakley:




4 thoughts on “The Language of the Internet

  1. Great article, I think it’s really interesting to see how people online discover so many ways to convey meaning and emotion through non-conventional text and images. There’s a picture online that explains if someone says hey to you with one y they just want to be friends but if they write heyy with two y’s then they are into you,etc. It’s meant to be humorous and exaggerated but people do try to convey different meanings with different word spellings or extra letters. (the image being referred to). Also related is how people use different amounts of ha to show how funny they think something is. One ha can be seen as sarcastic (not funny), a haha is the standard, more ha’s can mean something is super funny, but if there’s way too many ha’s then it goes back to being sarcastic.


  2. I really loved your analysis of the way we not only use, but misuse language online. I loved the gif of Shakira, because the gif itself is not very comical without context; however, if you add the background of the “error in titles” struggle, it becomes something that conveys a lot of relatable emotions and experience. It is interesting to think about how we have turned the misuse of language into something that can provide so many more layers of meaning to the way we communicate. Determinism in social media content is something that will be interesting to look at as we continue to grow our social media platforms.


  3. Shannen, I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I have never used tumblr but I have seen posts like this from screen shots and other social media. You talk about the “sudden capitalization” which is commonly used on almost all platforms. I usually opt for emojis as a visual or emotional cue, but it is not uncommon for someone for example, to be tweeting and then post a related tweet in all caps. Also, when someone is excited ( or whatever this emotion appears to be) there are often typos that one would normally go back and change. The idea that someone is so anxious to say whatever they are posting to no longer care is a phenomena that still surprises me. We have learned to accept the typos and can generally pretty easily find out what they mean. However, this sense of urgency on social media can be mind-blowing. I also really enjoyed the Shakira gif you incorporated. I personally have never seen it but I feel like I could have used in on many occasions!


  4. It is very odd to me to think that our language has to evolve to be better suited to capture emotion, as you have pointed out. Previously, if we must now split it by era, our language gave us a word which symbolized a thing, and the word symbolizing that thing helped us to envision what it meant. By using the word “puppy,” readers could envision a young/baby dog. But now, it’s as if we can’t use our imagination anymore by reading a description of a puppy which hopes to inspire some cute emotions in us. We instead have to be told exactly how to feel when reading “OMFG THIS PUPPERS GIANT NOSE CANT EVEN RN!!!!” I understand that we are trying to convey emotion through a screen, but I can’t help but think the people who have conveyed emotion through paper for so many centuries were better at their trade.


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